August 2, 2016

When will federal regulators step in to protect public safety?

Skip Nichols was allowed to keep his pilot's license with the FAA despite DUI and drug arretsDespite serving jail time for several DUI convictions and drug distribution charges, the pilot of the Texas hot air balloon crash in Lockhart was allowed to keep his operator’s license with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). What happened in the small Texan town this week is just another tragic example of what can happen when government regulators overlook looming public safety concerns.

Under FAA rules,  airplane and helicopter pilots need medical clearance to acquire their pilot’s license and be certified by the federal government for passenger travel. Part of this clearance involves an absence of DUI convictions or a history of alcohol abuse. Furthermore, pilots with FAA medical clearance must inform the agency within 60-days of any arrests for drugs or alcohol.

The problem? Hot air balloon pilots and hang glider operators do not require any such medical clearance to obtain their license. Additionally, pilots need only inform the FAA of any drug arrests at the time of applying for their pilot’s license but no time after.

Self-policing in aviation industry leads to disaster

The FAA’s policy on hot air balloon operators has essentially led to a system of self-policing by pilots, putting the lives of ordinary people at risk. In fact, the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) recommended imposing stricter oversight on ballooning in April 2014 but was brushed aside by the FAA, citing low risk of accident.

Just one month after turning down the NTSB’s recommendations, three-people were killed in Virginia when the balloon they were traveling in struck power lines and exploded. The circumstances of that case are eerily similar to those of the latest catastrophic hot air balloon accident in Texas.

Aviation accident attorneys

As a law firm committed to public safety and holding wrongdoers accountable, the aviation accident attorneys of The Cochran Firm, D.C. urge federal and state regulators to do more to protect our communities. The tragedy in Texas could have been avoided had regulators held hot air balloon pilots to the same standard of conduct as any other aircraft operator would.

If you or your family suffered a serious injury or the tragic loss of a loved on in an aviation accident, it could be because of the careless or negligent actions of the pilot or crew. Pilot error, mechanical failure, and flying in poor weather conditions are just some of the factors in what could be preventable accidents.

Contact our office to speak to an attorney about the circumstances of your case and find out what your legal options are. You may fill out an online contact form with the details of your case or call our office during business hours at 202-682-5800 or at 1-800-THE FIRM (843-3476) to reach us 24 hours a day.